A Walk Around Your Grocer Shows the Need for Cash to Transform Big Food

I like to eat, and I like to cook. As a result, I regularly spend more time than most males prowling the aisles of four different grocery purveyors around my suburban Atlanta neighborhood.

Undeniably, the food industry is experiencing seismic shifts, driven by changes in consumer preferences. These shifts have created a challenging business environment for companies, especially the ones that have dominated the industry for so long. Change and innovation can’t happen fast enough, but shrinking margins and revenues mean there is less cash on hand to invest in major transformation.

To get a sense of the scale and contours of those changes, all you need do is pay attention the next time you grab a shopping cart and take a trip around your local grocery store.

The Action Is On the Store Perimeter

Growth and innovation in the food industry is taking place mostly around the perimeter of a grocery store. Unfortunately, the center of the store has become a haven for food groups on the decline. My local Publix supermarket is a good example — a grocer with $34B in 2016 sales and fifth among U.S. grocery chains.

Upon entering, I always head counter clockwise, passing the deli and in-house bakery to land in the meat department. When I started coming here a decade ago, organic meats were poorly represented, if at all. Now the space devoted to Publix’ Greenwise private-label organic brand, along with branded organics has grown to represent a full quarter of the space. What was once to be found only in Whole Foods is now reasonably well represented.
Next stop, yogurt and non-dairy milk products. When I moved from California to Atlanta in 2006, Chobani was barely a year old. Now, the iconic Greek yogurt brand occupies shelf upon shelf, and the privately-held company is generating nearly $2B in sales. Of course, competitors new and old noticed, so the yogurt section exploded with types, brands, flavors, drinks, on and on. It’s an innovation story driven by consumer demand. The real news is upstarts like Chobani, Noosa, Siggi’s and others are taking share from market leaders like Yoplait — owned by General Mills, whose sales were down 11 percent in 2016.

Non-dairy milk products are another area where it’s easy to see consumer preferences driving immense change. Viewed as “better-for-you,” products made from soy, cashews, and almonds are increasing their share of milk-related sales. According to market researcher Mintel, sales of dairy milk in the U.S. decreased 7 percent in 2015 to $17.8B. In contrast, non-dairy milk sales grew 11 percent to $1.9B for 2015. Obviously the alternative-dairy number is sorely out of date when you consider Danone’s recent $12.5B acquisition of market leader WhiteWave, coming off of a year when WhiteWave generated $4.2B in revenue.

Packaged and Frozen Foods in Transition

Time to dive into the center of the store, starting with cereal. Whenever I visit the cereal aisle I’m reminded of a scene from the academy-award winning movie, The Hurt Locker. Jeremy Renner’s character, home on leave from bomb-squad duties in Iraq, confronts a massive wall of cereal choices. After considering his dilemma, he grabs a single box and escapes – ultimately back to the clarity of the battlefield. Well, the cereal aisle has become a similarly dangerous place for leading brands.

Declines in ready-to-eat cereal sales have been painful for cereal makers. U.S. sales were down 10 percent between 2012 and 2015 alone to $8.75B. Declines continue based on earnings releases from General Mills and others. What’s driving the change? Health-consciousness and time. Apparently, many folks are less and less likely eat a bowl of cereal sitting down, much less take the time to clean a bowl and spoon. Millennials are the biggest offending demographic, according to Mintel.

Next up frozen foods, where sales of frozen meals have experienced a steady decline. Before stabilizing in mid-2015, frozen meals were declining at a compounded rate of almost -3 percent per year starting in 2010, according to Nielsen. The same consumer trends are evident — focus on better-for-you natural ingredients, and key metrics like calories and protein content. Consumers’ renewed interest in fresh foods, grocers’ focus on prepared foods and meal-kits like Blue Apron are also impacting sales.

A bright spot in frozen meals is Nestle’s Lean Cuisine. In the two years prior to June 2015, Nestle reported a 20 percent cumulative decline in Lean Cuisine sales. In July 2015, Nestle’s launched a complete revamp of the Lean Cuisine brand and products. The brand shed its “diet” positioning in favor of modern eating and healthy lifestyle (e.g. organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, high protein). The Lean Cuisine product line was completely repositioned, along with its packaging, and a marketing blitz supported the pivot.

According to a recent Nestle investor presentation, the changes returned Lean Cuisine to growth. That has driven a 2.8 percent average growth rate for Nestle’s frozen meals overall since the repositioning went into effect.

Cash Required to Reinvent Food Brands for Today’s Consumers

As consumer tastes continue shifting, food manufacturers are forced to react. The Lean Cuisine story is a bright spot in a packaged food industry buffeted by change.

Lean Cuisine’s pivot required significant investment, however. According to Bloomberg, the “new” Lean Cuisine took 16 months to develop and was backed by millions in ad spend.

Some packaged food companies continue approaching the problem by selling brands and cutting costs — using proceeds to reinvest in areas promising for go-forward growth. Example: Unilever recently put a for-sale sign on its under-performing margarine and spreads business. The spreads business is expected to fetch €7B to €8B, most of which will go to fund higher dividends and a €5.3B share buyback, also recently announced. What’s left over presumably will be invested in consumer goods or packaged food improvements.

Innovative Companies Turn to Supply Chain Finance to Fund Strategic Initiatives

Forward-thinking companies are using supply chain finance programs to unlock cash from their supply chains to invest in innovation. Example: Kellogg’s disclosed in an investor presentation last year that it’s supply chain finance program paid for a $330M investment in Project K – a strategic initiative to reposition the company’s brands to meet consumers’ evolving tastes. Kellogg’s Project K is a multi-year program generating a need for additional cash infusions to reposition brands, fund acquisitions and new product development.

Clearly, there will be winners and losers over the next decade as consumers drive more change in the food industry. Innovative companies, both in terms of product reinvention and in financing that innovation, will be the ones to thrive.

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Stephanie Wargo

VP, Global Head of Marketing

Stephanie joined PrimeRevenue in 2015 and oversees the company’s global marketing team and strategy. With a data-driven approach, Stephanie focuses on demand generation and thought leadership to drive brand awareness, strengthen client/partner relationships, and generate new sales opportunities. Stephanie has guided PrimeRevenue through new technology releases and an evolving FinTech landscape. In addition to leading PrimeRevenue’s internal and external communications, she implemented innovative demand generation and marketing strategies to enhance the company’s overall sales pipeline.

Stephanie has extensive experience in marketing and customer success. She previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications at BitPay and Vice President of Client Relations and Marketing at FirstView Financial. Stephanie earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

Brian Medley

VP, Global Head of Sales

Brian joined PrimeRevenue in early 2012, after more than 20 years of sales leadership, executive-level consultant and business growth experience. As VP, Global Head of Sales, Brian leads a growing team of fintech sales professionals with a focus on developing strong customer relationships, improving sales predictability and helping PrimeRevenue enter the lucrative mid-market.

Prior to PrimeRevenue, Brian honed his enterprise software sales leadership skills at Clarus Corporation. He also served as an operations and IT management consultant for Kurt Salmon Associates. In addition to his sales and consulting background, Brian has deep experience in the financial industry having founded a successful residential mortgage broker and lending business. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology having earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Economics and M.B.A. in Global Business.

Jason Green

SVP, Global Customer Success

Jason joined PrimeRevenue in 2021 following more than two decades in the fintech/financial services industry. He brings a strong background is sales leadership due to his impressive relationship building capability as well as a successful track record in creating structure and process improvements. In his role, Jason uses his keen attention to detail to strengthen the customer experience and enhance the company’s solutions to deliver more value to clients.

Prior to joining the company, Jason held several senior level and executive roles with a focus on building and scaling sales and support organizations at both large and small companies. Jason graduated from Murray State University with a B.S in Marketing.

Matt Ford

SVP, Global Product Innovation

Matt joined PrimeRevenue in early 2015 and is responsible for overseeing all commercial, strategic and operational aspects of PrimeRevenue’s supply chain finance offerings throughout EMEA, based in Prague. He has been instrumental in gaining global alignment and developing supplier enablement processes for the region.

Matt joined PrimeRevenue following a 15-year career at Morgan Stanley, where he worked in fixed income operations covering debt syndication through bonds, EMTNS, corporate loans and other debt securitization. Notably, he set up non-core location operations in Europe (Budapest) and all lending operations in Baltimore from scratch.

Matt, who was born and raised in South East England, earned a B.S. in Sports Science at University of Teesside where he mastered the art of TEAM development and accountability as a youth international rugby player.

Dominic Capolongo

EVP, Global Head of Funding

Dominic joined PrimeRevenue in 2016, and is responsible for leading our bank and capital markets funding strategies and execution. He focuses on building global, scalable and highly efficient funding structures that maximize options for supporting PrimeRevenue’s programs. Dominic began his career as an attorney and was a partner with Kaye Scholer before joining DLJ as a senior banker. Dominic brings tremendous strategic and capital markets experience in all areas of finance having held senior positions at, among others, Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets in addition to DLJ. Dominic earned a JD from Fordham University School of Law and a BA from SUNY Binghamton.

Gavin Cicchinelli

Chief Operating Officer

Gavin joined PrimeRevenue as Chief Operating Officer in 2021. With more than two decades of leadership and executive experience along with a deep understanding of the payments space, Gavin provides a unique focus on improving and strengthening operational strategies and implementing GTM growth execution. He is responsible for leading transformation across corporate and operational strategies as well as building a repeatable and scalable commercial growth strategy that aligns with PrimeRevenue’s core business while delivering key adjacent growth opportunities.

Prior to joining PrimeRevenue, Gavin served as President and Chief Revenue Officer of Integrated Solutions at TSYS, a global payment processing services company acquired by Global Payments (NYSE:GPN). There, he also served as Head of Product and divisional COO. Throughout his career, Gavin has held multiple leadership positions including VP of Sales, SVP of Business Development, and President of Financial Institutions. Gavin graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.

David Quillian

Chief Legal Officer

David joined PrimeRevenue as General Counsel in 2007. He and his team have been instrumental in successfully creating the unique legal structures that support PrimeRevenue’s multi-funder model and global funding capabilities. David is also the lead named inventor on PrimeRevenue’s two patents for Electronic Time Drafts, which allow PrimeRevenue to manage supply chain finance programs using electronic negotiable instruments as opposed to accounts receivable. Prior to PrimeRevenue, David was General Counsel at Harbor Payments, which was acquired by American Express (AXP) in 2006, and Magnet Communications, which was acquired by Digital Insight (DGIN) in 2003. He holds degrees in Economics and History from Duke University, and Juris Doctor and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Georgia.

Nathan Feather


Nathan has successfully ushered PrimeRevenue from our very early days as a visionary startup, through the financial crisis to today’s position as a thriving mid-sized leader in the cloud-enabled supply chain finance marketplace since joining PrimeRevenue in January 2006. He was instrumental in recapitalizing the company with an $80M investment led by BBH Capital Partners in 2015. Prior to PrimeRevenue, he held various financial management roles with Ariba, Freemarkets and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Nathan holds a BS in Accounting from Pennsylvania State University.

PJ Bain


PJ has an impressive and accomplished track record as an enterprise software entrepreneur and executive. PJ has built a solid record of success with PrimeRevenue since being appointed Chief Executive Officer in July of 2009. The company has received numerous awards for growth, customer service, innovation, along with being recognized as a top employer.

PJ is a life-long software and technology entrepreneur having been involved in numerous firms in the roles of founder, executive, advisor and investor. Immediately prior to PrimeRevenue, PJ was the VP and General Manager of Exact Holding N.V. (NYSE/AMS: EXACT), a leading global provider of business software solutions. He was previously Founder and CEO of Inspired Solutions, an Atlanta-based, B2B software and services firm that grew to be the largest reseller of Exact Software in North America, later acquired by Exact. PJ holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.